Music has long transcended geographical and cultural barriers to forge new sounds. That bond is manifested once more in the collaboration between vocalist and kora player Ablaye Cissoko and trumpeter Volker Goetze.
Cissoko and Goetze met in 2001 at the African-European Jazz Orchestra rehearsals in Senegal, where they were to open for Youssou N'Dour. Out of that meeting came the decision to record together. It was a judicious one.
Cissoko plays the kora, a 21-string instrument. His mastery of the instrument is startlingly evident in the delicacy and musicality he draws from it. He makes it another voice, to accompany and embellish not only his singing but the trumpet of Goetze as well. Goetze's lyrical approach to the trumpet is in keeping with the mood of the songs, and his deliberation soothes and brings in a balmy air. The pairing of the two is spellbinding.
Cissoko is a griot: a storyteller and a bard. His words may not be understood, but their emotional impact is undeniable. His sense of phrasing and enunciation lend themselves to his art.
The music comprises traditional tunes which a griot can shape to circumstance, and compositions from both players. The first story that the two tell is of "Sira." It means "mermaid," and is also the name of Cissoko's daughter. The mood is established right off with the notes from the kora rising in crystal purity. Cissoko sings with tenderness and warmth, drawing the listener into the experience. With Goetze clasping the mood with his shimmering lines, the impression is unforgettable.
Goetze has made the music part of his vocabulary. He finds a rich lore on the Ghanian rhythm of "Bamaya." While Cissoko lets the kora dance on the melody, Goetze smears the lines with his trumpet before he expands the dynamics through jazz harmony.
Each song tells its story with grace and an earnest zeal. Through it all Goetze and Cissoko captivate and never let go.